The continuing release
of the Barcelona Ring cycle is of course
an important addition to the DVD catalogue.
The director, Harry Kupfer, has strong
Wagnerian credentials and his production
has abundant interest for anyone who
is interested in Wagner.
The cast has been carefully
assembled and they work well as a team,
both dramatically and musically. This
is at its most palpable during the opening
scene of Act III, when the assembled
valkyries make a fine noise and use
the stage to maximum effect. While each
individual is experienced as a talented
singer suitable to the appropriate role,
there are some outstanding performances
that rate special mention. Lioba Braun,
for instance, is an excellent Fricka.
Her stage and vocal presences confirm
that Wotan must follow her command in
the Hunding-Siegmund confrontation.
The Siegmund and Sieglinde,
Richard Berkeley-Steele and Linda Watson,
work tirelessly and effectively in carrying
the drama of Act I. Perhaps she appears
a little matronly, but vocally she is
well up to the mark.
Falk Struckmann is
a strongly characterised Wotan who creates
a more than one-dimensional response
to the role, while Deborah Polaski’s
interpretation of Brünnhilde generates
great intensity. She remains a leading
Wagnerian singer of our time, a position
she has occupied for more than a decade
Where the musical side
of things is more strained is in the
orchestral department. Taken from two
live performances, the recording cannot
altogether hide the fact that the Liceu
orchestra is good but not outstanding.
And given Wagner’s uncompromising demands
in these quarters, is good good
enough? Not that the performance won’t
give pleasure musically - it most definitely
will - but set against competition of
the calibre of James Levine and Metropolitan
Opera, there is a better musical experience
out there for the collector looking
to make a definitive choice.
Bertrand de Billy is
a fine Wagner conductor, and his performance
whips up plenty of fire, if occasionally
the tension is allowed to sag. The ending
of Act I is particularly exciting, for
example, whereas the Magic Fire Music
in Act III is something of a damp squib.
On DVD and video it
is not just a matter of the visual production
with the music, there is also the challenge
of conveying this on screen through
the camera work and editing. Kupfer’s
is a grey production, in many senses
of the word, and the cameras fail significantly
to bring it to life. Perhaps the Opus
Arte director had too few options at
his disposal and had to rely on zooming
in and out.
This is such a great
score that any professional performance
featuring talented singers and company
will have its compelling aspects. That
is the case here, but for this reviewer
at least, the rival versions conducted
by Levine (DG) or Barenboim (Teldec)
are more rewarding.
De Billy is a fine Wagner conductor,
and his performance whips up plenty
of fire, if occasionally the tension
is allowed to sag. ... a professional
performance that has its compelling
aspects. ... see Full Review